What Is PIM and How Does It Work?

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What is PIM and How Does It Work?

If you are a business with a huge product catalog of more than a million SKUs, digital assets, or complex descriptive data, you might have heard of how a Product Information Management solution can cut down the time and effort needed to manage them.

Then you might have wondered, "just what is Product Information Management?"

In this article, we will lay out the basics of Product Information Management. We will look at the benefits that PIM offers to retailers, explain why PIM is a crucial platform-as-a-service, and how it affects the ROI of any e-commerce business.

If you are looking for ways to clean up and centralize unstructured product data, with a goal to succeed with your digital assets in the omnichannel, read below to understand how PIM software improves data quality.

What is PIM?

Product Information Management (PIM) is the procedure of handling product information to efficiently market and sell those products across all sales and marketing channels.

Practice shows that, when businesses sell their products online, they often end up having a vast amount of product information across multiple channels. Without control over product data and a consistent omnichannel strategy, one product can often be displayed to customers with disparate descriptions, technical specifications, and marketing messages.

Taking full control over product information is a major step towards creating Omnichannel via @bluestonepim

To makes things even more complicated, product information is usually scattered throughout different teams and kept by many employees in multiple internal systems, instead of being available centrally.

ERP systems and Excel spreadsheets cannot exchange information on their own, data may be saved in various formats, or only be available in hard copy form. This quickly leads to data silos and a challenge in which managing information of a constantly growing number of products easily turns into a spreadsheets crisis which in turn has a negative impact on product data quality.

This is exactly where Product Information Management solutions come to help marketers and e-commerce managers work much smarter. Product Information Management involves managing, processing, enriching, and publishing product information to external channels. These complex processes call for PIM software that will enable teams to work with product information easily and efficiently.

What is a PIM tool?

A Product Information Management tool is software that enables businesses to centralize, manage, enrich and distribute their product data in the most efficient and simplified way possible. PIM is meant to support the sales and marketing efforts of B2B and B2C sales companies alike.

 

PIM system coordinates the process of managing product information across different sales channels, such as web shops, online marketplaces like Amazon, comparison shopping websites, and printed catalogs. This automated approach empowers brands, retailers, and wholesalers to create excellent customer relationships and, thus, grow revenue.

Borgar Hestad, EVP Sales and Marketing at Bluestone

 

There are various types of PIM tools available on the market, depending on the technologies and business models they are based on. While some companies still deploy PIM as onsite software, there are also cloud-native options that are better suited to modern needs and fit commerce stacks.

Cloud-native PIM solutions offer virtually unlimited interoperability, superior performance, and broad connectivity. These applications are also available through managed SaaS subscriptions, which are low-maintenance and allow organizations to pay only for what they use in a monthly subscription.

Differences between PIM and MDM

High-quality, core information essential to all business processes and used by different applications across the entire company is often called master data. To manage master data, companies need to create a smart framework of technologies and processes with a central repository. And this framework is better known as Master Data Management (MDM).

The main focus of Master Data Management is to create a single source of data that is used throughout the enterprise. But Master Data Management is not just about product information.

MDM goes far beyond the realms of IT, Sales, or Marketing departments. It’s a cross-organizational effort to gather, manage, and distribute data in the most efficient way possible.

From this perspective, it’s fair to say that PIM is a subset of MDM.

  • MDM focuses on getting all the information not just related to products, but also to customers, suppliers, partners, employees, locations, etc. into one repository in order to achieve operational excellence. It is crucial for every department in a given company as master data is used on a daily basis by different applications across the entire business.

  • PIM focuses on delivering a set of features to centralize product-related data from various sources and then easily manage, enrich, and syndicate this product content towards multiple sales and marketing channels. It is especially important for Sales and Marketing teams.

Differences between PIM system and MDM system We talk more about how PIM and MDM complement each other in our Tech E-commerce Trends in 2022: PIM and MDM article.

Differences between PIM and PCM

PIM is sometimes confused with PCM. To make things even worse, there are many definitions that position PCM similarly to PIM, adding to the confusion. Despite common misconceptions, there are vast differences between the two.

  • PCM is a standard feature in most enterprise e-commerce solutions and primarily offers data enrichment. In this case, enrichment equals the ability to efficiently add or edit product descriptions, attributes, images, and data taxonomies. Such features are fantastic for managing a single source of truth of product information.

  • PIM usually goes much further than just data enrichment. It provides extra components like data quality, data completeness, aggregation, and syndication. These features allow e-commerce businesses not only to centralize product information but also to easily syndicate consistent and accurate information to various sales channels.

Do you know what Product Lifecycle Management, Master Data Management, and Digital Assets Management stand for? Learn their definitions with this quick guide!

What can you do with a PIM?

PIM system core capabilities can include workflow, business process, hierarchy management, loading, syncing, modeling, and cleansing data, information stewardship, distribution, and Digital Asset Management (DAM). A PIM platform supports marketing, e-commerce, and data admin teams in performing these actions.

Taking it a step further, a PIM can also enable direct data manipulation directly from other applications via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

How to use product information management (PIM) system

With the help of the PIM tool, businesses can maintain omnichannel consistency with accurate product data in distribution channels and create a seamless product experience.

Follow the main actions in which the Product Information Management system can support your teams:

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Centralize product data in one platform

PIM system reduces the number of manual tasks. No more spreadsheets battles in searching for the missing information.

 

Gather Data

Bring product data together to establish a single source of truth for the entire organization.

Import Data

Transfer product data into the PIM system from various file formats and custom templates.

Standardize Data

Customize the product editor and build a structure that fits your product categories and subcategories.

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Enrich product content

Create a great product message and deliver a consistent product experience in multiple channels. You can do this in PIM software by enriching product descriptions with relevant attributes, media, relations, and translated content.

Insert Rich Media

Keep track of documents, images, videos, warranty cards, product sheets, and other media. Connect them to products, bundles, or even entire categories.

Link Media to Products

Enrich product information by creating, editing, or grouping product attributes.

Set Language and Localisation

Set up multiple versions of product data to suit different contexts and scenarios, such as country-specific or translated content.

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Syndicate to external channels

Display accurate and up-to-date content everywhere you want. Make your product information accessible for any digital sales channel. Prevent errors before adding, removing, or modifying anything.

 

Create Custom Feeds

You can set your own rules and custom templates.

Export Product Feeds

Share product data with your coworkers or partner. Thanks to product history you can track who enriches the product content.

Track Product Performance

Make sure which products are ready to go live and which require more work.

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Collaborate with everyone

Harness your colleague’s expertise, knowledge, and collective effort in one place. Avoid duplicate effort, and keep track of work progress.

 

Delegate Tasks

Invite colleagues, partners, and suppliers to collaborate on product information. With defined roles and permissions, you retain complete control over your products at any stage.

Streamline Workflow

PIM solutions such as Bluestone PIM enable communication directly through messager in the platform, without a need to exchange e-mails.

Share data with suppliers

PIM system can also help to control supplier-provided documentation Invite suppliers to collaborate on products and ensure that they provide you with the right data in the right format.

To learn more about the functionality of a PIM tool and how you can simplify the way you manage and deliver your product content, check out our Features Overview page.

What are the benefits of a PIM?

A report by Ventana Research goes into detail about the attitude of businesses towards building electronic commerce on the foundation of the PIM system. Only 1% of survey respondents believed that the integration of e-commerce and PIM is not important. A great majority felt that integrating PIM is very important to meet the goals of an eCommerce business.

According to a group of vetted respondents in executive and management roles across industries and organizations, having one single Product Information Management (PIM) application is the best solution for effective management of product-related content. The benefits of using dedicated PIM technology included eliminating errors and mistakes, consistency across channels, and improved customer experience.

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High quality of product content, including technical data, images, or customer-generated content like reviews contribute directly to the number of purchases, product affinity, reduced cart abandonment, less product returns and facilitate a better product experience. 

Borgar Hestad, EVP Sales and Marketing at Bluestone PIM

 

Let's break down the key benefits of using a dedicated PIM system:

Create a memorable product experience

Customers purchase not only a product or service itself but the whole experience around it. The experience is built upon product content. With the support of the PIM system, marketers and e-commerce managers can create unique, personalized, context-aware, and well-targeted content. That provides customers with the right information throughout their entire shopping journey. 

Eliminate product data errors

Scattering product information across channels and different files leads to errors and a massive amount of manual work. Product information management software can be a central repository for all product data. Thanks to establishing one source of truth in PIM, teams can find all information about a specific product in one place and can forget about spreadsheet nightmares. 

Automate manual work

Time is money. It would be better to spend it on important projects than manually modeling and collecting product data. A PIM solution allows teams to use their time more efficiently with the help of automated processes and eliminates the need for multiple Excel sheets and mundane data entry work.

Ensure content quality

High-quality product information helps companies drive sales, prompting potential customers to make purchasing decisions. PIM software enables e-commerce businesses to enrich product data by contextualizing and adding various media formats via Digital Asset Management and effortlessly maintaining high-quality product data

Faster time-to-market

The highly competitive and rapidly changing e-commerce industry pushes businesses to shorten their product life cycles to be ahead of competitors. It's easier to prepare for a product launch by having everything about the product in the right format and in one place. PIM system makes all operations related to managing product data much faster. 

Improve cross-team collaboration

With the PIM system, it's easy to invite your workmates, create or delegate tasks, and keep track of work progress. You can also control the external access and invite your partners to collaborate on the products to ensure they will provide you with the right content at the right time.

Increase sales revenue

By gaining speed in smartly managing product information, you can increase your capacity in time-to-market and tap into new unexploded sales channels.

Why do you need a PIM?

It’s hard to ignore the massive growth that the e-commerce industry as a whole is experiencing a year by year. For example, a pre-COVID-19 study by Statista shows that global retail e-commerce sales will reach 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025. Clearly, the future of sales is online, which makes PIM solution a relevant and necessary platform to use.

Depending on how much time you are willing to spend on managing product information, you may not need PIM if your portfolio has just a few hundred SKUs and you have no immediate plans to grow. Anything more than that, and managing your content is going to become a struggle. It will be time-consuming, if not impossible.

Without a PIM system, you will need to dedicate much more working hours to editing, reviewing, and cleaning up errors in product data manually to prevent them from impacting your customer experience.

How do you know if you need a PIM?

First off, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you struggling to update your product data across multiple sales channels?

  • Are you frustrated by how long it takes to ready your products for sale online?

  • Are you receiving complaints about your products not matching your description?

  • Do you have 1,000 to 2,000,000 SKUs or media files?

  • Do you want to deliver a consistent and effective product experience?

  • Do you want to create an engaging and delightful customer experience?

  • Do you want to expand your business into new markets?

If you answered YES to most of these questions, then that means you need PIM software.

If you plan to benefit from using multiple sales channels or an omnichannel sales strategy, then PIM is going to be the most efficient way to create and store all the different versions of content required by your partners.

There are also other factors you should consider, so why not check out our When Should I Implement a PIM Solution article?

How can PIM help your teams?

PIM systems are dedicated to managers and teams closely working with product information at various stages:

Ecommerce teams

PIM software helps to provide customers with better product experiences, strengthen the brand's position and earn consumer trust. Using various features of the PIM system, e-commerce managers can keep an eye on product information quality and collaborate efficiently within the team and with suppliers, or agencies.

Sales and marketing teams

PIM system helps them create consistent and complete product stories depending on markets and sell products across marketplaces and digital sales channels.

Product and category managers

Product teams understand the close relationship between rich, complete product content and better sales performance. With the PIM system, they can set up relations between products like cross-selling or upselling as well as speed up time-to-market for new products.

IT solution architecture

PIM system in the SaaS model brings new possibilities for e-commerce businesses, not available with legacy IT. Modern and flexible PIM solution makes the everyday work of tech teams easier without the need of investing hardware in a data center.

 

Online shopping is growing extremely fast worldwide and the digital representation of each product, also known as the digital twin, is the critical asset of every multi-channel retailer. Just look at it this way - long before your customers buy your products, they already interact with them — or in fact they interact with their digital twins. They look for photos, read descriptions, watch videos, compare prices, and study reviews on comparison websites. PIM is the best guarantee of taking control over the digital twin and thus, a solid foundation for e-commerce growth.

Einar Augedal, CEO at Bluestone

Want to learn how else PIM can help your teams work more efficiently? Check out our Business Benefits of Product Information Management article!

What data can you manage with a PIM?

PIM software helps to manage all kinds of product data such as product descriptions, product attributes, SKUs, digital assets (images, videos, and PDFs), technical specifications, and pricing information.

How can data in PIM be used?

By storing all of the product data in a single repository, you can easily coordinate the process of sending the right information to different sales and marketing channels, such as :

  • Online marketplaces

  • Printed catalogs

  • E-commerce platforms

  • Websites

  • Apps

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There are automated workflows to create print and digital collateral to be used in campaigns. In fact, there are no limits to how PIM data can be used – you can feed it to any platform or software that connects via APIs or enables import. There is space for innovation and exploring the still new fields of social commerce, chat commerce, and AR, based on product data managed in a PIM system.

A quality PIM solution empowers multi-channel retailers to create excellent product and customer experiences by distributing accurate product data to marketplaces. This approach results in omnichannel consistency, an engaging product story that delights customers, increased traffic to your online and offline store, and higher online sales figures.

Important PIM features to look out for

Choosing a PIM solution is a long-term investment. To make an informed buying decision, it is advisable to review selected PIM systems from an angle of technical capabilities and implementation plans.

There are some features a PIM system should have in order to grow with your business and effectively support working with product data, such as:

  • Multi-tenant SaaS that grows in line with your needs

  • Easy integration with external systems and sales channels

  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface

  • Powerful Digital Assets Management (DAM)

  • Control over the roles, permissions, and tasks

  • Marketplace with apps to enrich your PIM experience

  • Multi-language support

  • Online training and instant support at your disposal

  • Flexible pricing model adapted to your needs

  • No hidden costs

Bluestone PIM has all of these important features to organize your product data, coordinate workflows, and make multichannel selling a breeze!

Why choose Bluestone PIM for your business?

Here are 4 reasons why Bluestone PIM is the best PIM solution to help you scale and grow your business.

Built on MACH architecture

Bluestone PIM is the first MACH-based PIM system certified by MACH Alliance, the organization which promotes the best enterprise technology ecosystem and educates about MACH. MACH architecture is a powerful combination of four technologies: Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native Saas, and Headless.

Interested to know more? Read our How Bluestone PIM Fits in MACH Architecture article!

Future-proof technology

MACH-based PIM gives businesses the freedom to compose their digital commerce stack and easily connect the PIM system with legacy IT components. Thanks to MACH technology, PIM also offers unlimited scalability, speed, and connectivity to get to market faster and expand market reach by creating engaging omnichannel product experiences. 

Check out our How to Future-Proof Your E-commerce Business article to learn how you can prepare your business for any future challenges.

Dedicated project manager and project engineer

Bluestone PIM has project engineers to ensure that customers get the right technical training to execute all processes efficiently and eliminate repetitive tasks.

We also dedicate project managers to each client so that all issues can be tackled in a timely manner. With them by your side, you can rest assured that you can use Bluestone PIM to its fullest potential.

Check out our Best Practice For PIM Implementation article to learn more about our onboarding process and how you can be prepared beforehand.

Software updates every 6 weeks

Bluestone PIM is updated every six weeks according to the roadmap. What’s more, you can influence our roadmap!

We are always listening to the needs of our clients and taking note of what we can do to make their job easier. If there is any feature you need, let us know and we can customize our software to suit your needs.

Summary

  • PIM stands for “Product Information Management” and is software designed to manage product-related data in the most efficient way possible.

  • PIM is meant to help businesses with a massive amount of complex product information and digital assets to collect, enrich, prepare, and distribute those data to all sales and marketing channels.
  • PIM benefits businesses by simplifying their day-to-day management of product information, reducing the risk of human errors, eliminating the need for multiple spreadsheets, and freeing up resources that will be dedicated to mundane and repetitive data entry work.
  • PIM solutions empower brands and retailers to create an excellent customer experience and improve sales in the long run.

  • Having a quality PIM system is a major step toward creating Omnichannel consistency.

  • PIM is a part of Master Data Management, sometimes called “MDM for business purposes”.

  • With a PIM system, teams can collect, enrich, collaborate and distribute product content through various channels.

  • PIM is dedicated to sales and marketing experts, e-commerce managers, and IT teams.

  • If you have a large number of SKUs (from 1,000 to 2,000,000) and you're selling products in multiple channels, that is a sure sign that you need a PIM system.

  • Key benefits of the PIM system included the automation of manual tasks, eliminating product data errors, improving cross-team collaboration, creating a seamless product experience, fastening time-to-market, and ensuring product data quality.

  • When looking for a solution that suits your needs, pay attention to a user-friendly interface, easy integrations with external systems, multi-language support, and flexible pricing plans.

  • Bluestone PIM is the first MACH-based PIM built as microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native Saas, and headless. This technology ensures unlimited scalability, high connectivity, and freedom in creating a digital commerce stack.

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